Merrill College Programs & Courses

     Merrill College is proud to support a diverse range of programs that are united in the goal of fostering experiential learning. These programs model active civic and academic engagement (in 
schools and agencies, in research) and mentor students as they participate. They take education beyond the classroom. Merrill is currently supporting the development of new programs while supporting and growing existing programs. Some of these programs offer academic credit; others do not. All encourage tangible, hands on learning meant to spark a sense of purpose, caring, and drive in students that will last well beyond college. And all provide students the chance to dig deeper into what it means to be a Merrill student on campus, in the Santa Cruz community, and in the world.

 Academic Experiential Programs

Classroom Connection

       Classroom Connection offers 40-50 students per quarter academic credit to learn about K-12 education in California while serving as classroom aides or tutor/mentors in local and regional schools. Participating students learn about the California educational system even as they become a genuinely meaningful part of younger students’ educational stories. About ¾ of the participants are placed in underserved Santa Cruz-area elementary schools. Spanish-speaking participants may be placed in bilingual elementary school classrooms locally, or may choose placements in the tiny agricultural community of Pescadero, 30 miles up the coast, where they help ease the language barrier between elementary school students and teachers or serve as “transition-to-college” mentors for middle and high school students. Classroom Connection participants model what it means to be a college student and encourage younger children to imagine college as part of their future. Many return for another quarter.

Field Study

       Field study internships have been an essential part of Merrill College since the college’s founding in 1968. There are opportunities for experiential education through internships offered every quarter. These are especially valuable for students whose own majors may not offer experiential education internships. Participants in the Field Study program learn principles of field study and learn how to take field notes while simultaneously serving as participant-observers in off-campus organizations, earning academic credit according to the number of placement hours completed in a quarter. Students find the placements give them a sense of grounded purpose as they simultaneously pursue their more traditional studies in the classroom. Some find placements directly connected with their majors; others find placements that feed another passion. Students study the agencies while working within them, enriching their educations while actively participating in work that benefits the greater Santa Cruz community. If you're interested in Field Study, contact Mike Rotkin at for more information.

Merrill Undergraduate Research Mentorship Program

       The Merrill Undergraduate Research Mentorship Program enables upper-division students to work closely with faculty members by assisting them on their research via paid research mentorships. Students learn methods and techniques for research under a faculty member actively engaged in current research. Faculty members mentor students in unique one-on-one partnerships, teaching students hands-on research practices in their mutual fields of interest. Faculty thus inspire potential research paths while serving as guides and companions, a wonderful introduction to the world of research for students still in an undergraduate program.

Challenge Program

       Now facilitated by Undergraduate Honors as the College Scholars Program, the Challenge Program offered eligible first- and second-year students at Merrill, Kresge, Stevenson, and Porter Colleges unusual access to UCSC’s dynamic faculty via a sequence of linked research-oriented classes. The program started with a choice of small, hands-on seminars in spring of the first year and continued with a lecture-and-dinner series featuring faculty speaking on their lives as researchers in fall of the second year. Providing students with a challenging series of classes, and culminating in the opportunity to propose and conduct research under faculty guidance later in the second year, the program was also meant to promote retention of high-achieving students who might otherwise transfer to other universities after one year. This program was unusually research-oriented for lower-division students, and focused on the many options available to UCSC students seeking a challenging education that fostered their own interests. The Challenge Program was open to students based on their academic performance in their first quarter at UCSC.